From Diamond to Coal 01
CHAPTER ONE After the kind of day he wouldn't have wished on his worst enemy, trekking through the house seemed like some kind of never-ending journey, his feet dragging across the floor. Alan was getting the beginnings of a headache, one of those ones that hung just behind his right sinus and eye until he wanted to cry. Not that it was all that painful; it was just that it was a never ending kind of pain. A constant nagging ache that made him grind his teeth until his jaw ached. He had some sympathy for van Gogh, though he was never letting things get so out of control that he thought mutilation was a viable option. Not until he saw a doctor anyway. "What's with that look?" William demanded as soon as Alan came into the living room. "Huh?" Alan asked intelligently. His eye was caught by the image William presented sitting with his legs folded under him on the couch. There was a decorative pillow left where he had been resting on it and the front of his shirt was rumpled. Alan felt off balance, sort of hanging between the open door and the room. He came the rest of the way in, closing the door behind him with a click. He started to take off his jacket, keeping one eye on William the entire time. Not that he ever wanted to look away from William. He was just so incredibly beautiful. Not handsome. BEAUTIFUL. He had a dark haired sloe-eyed beauty that combined with a lean build and narrow hips to make Alan want to bundle him up and protect him from the world, never mind that William was supremely skilled at taking care of himself. William Neeley was like poetry or something and there was no way Alan had ever done anything to make him worthy enough of that love. William was a good person through and through, and when combined with his awesome physical presence... he was like art and music and orgasms all rolled into one package. And he was always there for Alan to come home to, sweet warmth he could wrap himself around. William stood on his knees, resting his crossed arms on the couch back. His black hair was a little tousled, probably from napping earlier, as there was a bit of puffiness around his dark brown eyes. His lips curved in amusement as he examined Alan from the top of his head down to his feet then back up. "You look like someone kicked you in the nuts. What's wrong?" William cocked his head questioningly. Alan sighed and hung his jacket in the wardrobe William had insisted on. He tugged his tie loose and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his dress shirt; it felt nice to be able to breathe easily. "I'm getting a migraine. I just don't feel like doing much of anything, but we've got to go to that thing tonight." William pursed his lips and glanced down at his watch. "Hm. Well, I can whip something up to take the edge off for you. I mean, I'm not a doctor or anything, but I do know a little something about chemistry." "Are you going to try and kill me?" Alan asked. He couldn't help pressing the base of his palm against his brow bone. It felt like something was pushing in on his eye socket. "No!" "Oh, too bad. At this point I would probably welcome it if you went all homicidal. Anything to stop the pain in my head." Alan walked over to the couch and flopped down next to William and rested the side of his face against William's hip. There was some pinch of cloth pressing uncomfortably against his cheekbone, but he didn't care as long as he had William. "I love you." William peered down at him, that little worry line appearing between his brows just under the edge of the black band of his halo. "I love you too. You really do look horrible. Lie down and I'll get you something to make you feel better." Alan groaned quietly, but let William's gentle hands guide him down onto the couch so he was stretched out. He felt a bit disappointed that William immediately stood up afterward instead of snuggling with him, but he didn't have the strength to object. He closed his eyes and just tried to rest. He could hear William moving around, but his head hurt too much for curiosity. He was glad just to enjoy the couch cushions under his back as he let the remnants of William's body heat soak into his skin. Suddenly the cool edge of a glass was pressed cross-wise to his lips. "Here," William said, warm fingers brushing Alan's hair back from his forehead. Alan opened his eyes a crack. William was kneeling in front of him holding a full glass of something pink and fizzy. "I don't think so," Alan said, taking one sniff. His nostrils burned. "Uh uh," William said, tugging on his arm until he was forced to sit halfway up. "You're going to drink this. Then you can take a nap or whatever." Alan groaned, but knew he wasn't going to win the argument. He started drinking. It maybe tasted a bit fruity at first, then he got that awful medicine flavor. He wanted to stop drinking, but William was right there looking at him, forcing him to swallow. He drank it all, staring at William's face during every gulp. He memorized the curve of William's jaw, the dark arch of his brows, and the sincerity of his eyes. It was a face he'd dedicated hours of his life to studying, but that he would never grow tired of seeing. Passing the glass back into William's hand, he pressed a fist against his chest and held his breath for a minute. There was a definite fizzing sensation going on. There wasn't any pain; it just felt uncomfortable. "That was horrible," he said, then barely muffled a belch with his other hand. "Yeah, probably. But how do you feel?" William quirked an eyebrow. He was studying Alan with open curiosity. Alan had to admit, "Better. I feel a lot better. My headache's almost all the way gone and I don't feel quite as much like I'm going to die." He smiled. "Thank you." "You're welcome." William gave him a quick peck on the cheek, then stood up. "You rest a while, I'm going to go grab Morgan. We really should spend some time together as a family before we have to go to that thing tonight. I just always feel so bad when we don't get to have dinner with him." "Okay," Alan said, lying back down. He closed his eyes and heard William's footsteps walk away. He didn't know what he'd done to deserve it, but Alan Trent was the luckiest man on Earth. * * * Morgan's door was slightly ajar so William gave it a soft tap before pushing it all the way open. He couldn't help laughing at the sight in front of him and took a quick picture with his cymplant. Morgan was wearing a purple tunic with a gold belt at the waist, brown curly toed shoes, and an ornate gold and gem encrusted crown on his head, flattening his black hair around his ears. His slightly pudgy face was wearing the most arrogant expression he could manage, his bright blue eyes squeezed half-closed by his cheeks. He looked really cute with one foot propped on the frame of the bed and holding a plastic sword in his left hand. Byron was kneeling in front of him with a frightened look on his handsome face as he cringed away from the cruel tyrant. He was wearing a dark brown jerkin over his regular clothes and had pulled a lumpy looking hat down on his head. They were an evil prince and a downtrodden peasant. From the weary expression on Byron's face they had been playing for a while, still he would happily play for hours more without complaining. He'd always been like Morgan's favorite uncle and he took the role seriously. "What's going on here?" William leaned against the door frame with his arms crossed and a big grin pulling his lips. On seeing him, Byron hastily removed the jerkin and tossed it on the bed. He knocked the hat off when he tried to rake his hand through his dark brown hair, then had to twist around to catch it. "We were just playing evil tyrant," he said, sounding surprisingly cool despite his flustered appearance. His cheeks were pink and he quickly straightened his tie before grabbing his jacket off the bed and slipping it on. Morgan turned in surprise. He gave a bright grin. "Daddy!" Morgan was seven, a tiny elfling of a boy with straight black hair and serious blue eyes. His face was chubby, but his body was skinny, and someday he was going to be a real heart-breaker. Byron was twenty-nine, tall and muscular, and trying to brush the wrinkles out of his dove gray suit jacket that William suspected might have little footprints on it. Byron looked embarrassed at being caught playing make-believe. "Well, well, if it isn't my little Mordred," William said, standing up straight and holding his arms open. "Aren't you going to give me a hug?" Morgan grinned and ran across the room to wrap his short arms tight around William's waist. "We were having fun," he said. "Byron's my serf. He has to do whatever I say or I'm going to take his land away." William made a mock-disapproving face. "I don't know if I like that game. Should you be being mean to him?" "It's not real," Morgan said, grabbing hold of William's belt loops and leaning backward. He stared upward into William's face, squinting a little at the overhead light. "I would never really be mean to Byron like that. He's my friend." William braced himself to keep from going over and smiled down at Morgan. "Well, that's good. Your dad's out there waiting for you. I said we would hang out together." Morgan's face brightened. "Dad's not too busy tonight?" William bit his lip. He hated the fact that Alan's position kept him away so much and wished he could spend more time with Morgan. It just didn't seem fair. "Why don't you go wash up real quick? Your dad's waiting for us," he said. "Okay!" Morgan ran off toward the bathroom attached to his bedroom. There was some clattering, then the sound of water running. William looked at Byron. "Thank you for keeping him entertained." Byron shrugged. "It's not a big deal. He's a funny kid." "Yeah, he kind of is." William smiled fondly as Morgan stepped out of the bathroom. His face was still a bit wet and his hair was standing up on one side from his crown. William ran a hand over Morgan's head when the boy came to stand next to him, smoothing his hair back down and pressing a quick kiss against the top of his head. "Let's go see your dad." They walked hand-in-hand into the living room with Byron trailing behind them. William had gotten used to having bodyguards around at all times. It was one of those things that had just kind of happened when he'd made his first billion dollars. And now that Alan was the President of the United States... there was never a moment where they could just be alone. . . It took a couple of finger prods from William, but Alan rolled up into a sitting position and he definitely looked much better than he had when he first walked in. He was able to pull Morgan down on his lap and give him the big hug and smile he deserved. " And how has your day been?" Alan asked. Morgan shrugged. "Same old, same old." "Really?" Alan raised an amused eyebrow at William, who shrugged. He didn't know where the kid got it from either. "Well, my day could have gone better, but it was pretty all right too." "But you've gotta go to a thing tonight?" Morgan asked. "Yeah," Alan sounded tired. William couldn't resist reaching out and petting his hair back down where it stuck up a little in the back from sleep. Alan gave him a grateful smile before focusing on Morgan. "I don't want to go, but they make me. It's either go to the thing, or they're going to come after me." "You're pretty silly," Morgan said, shaking his head. Alan laughed. "You're calling me silly? Hello, I'm the President of the United States of America. You're supposed to respect my authority." "Nuh uh," Morgan said, crossing his arms. "You're my dad. You're not allowed to be mean to me or Daddy will give you trouble." William snorted. "You make me sound like some kind of Grinch or something." "Because you are!" Morgan exclaimed, then giggled and shrieked helplessly when Alan began to tickle him around the ribs and belly. William leaned against the end of the couch, watching them. Alan had to hold Morgan tightly to try and control the boy's flailing legs as he tickled him. They were both laughing and William felt an ache in his chest. He wished they could have more moments like this, but the world always seemed to get in the way. The saddest thing was that Morgan was just getting older with every day that passed by and someday soon he would be too old to play around. At least, he would think he was too old to play. William knew that Alan regretted not being able to spend as much time as he wanted with Morgan. It was something he tried to make up for, but there were just times when Morgan really missed his dad. "Hey, Dad," Morgan said after they'd calmed down and were sitting side-by-side on the couch, "do you like being the President?" Alan sighed. "When I agreed to be the interim-Vice President, it was just supposed to be until Ben found someone else. No one thought he was going to die. But I took the job he offered, so I'm kind of obligated to do it and I really want to do the best job that I can. It's just that sometimes it's really hard and that makes me tired when I come home." "I'm sorry," Morgan said, giving him a quick hug. "He was your friend, huh?" "Yeah," Alan said. "He was my friend." "It's sad that he's dead. You're not going to die too, right?" Morgan asked. "Those bad people aren't going to kill you, right? We're not going to let that happen?" William bit his lip and clenched his hands into fists at his sides. He hated the fact that Morgan had to worry about assassins and hate groups, especially since the boy didn't really understand what he was fearing. All he knew was that President Benjamin Hale had been killed and there were people out there threatening to do the same thing to his dad. "We're not going to let that happen," Alan said quietly. He put his arm around Morgan's shoulder and drew him close against his side. "That's why we have the Secret Service. They're here to keep us safe." "Okay," Morgan said. He perked up suddenly. "Do you want to play a video game with me? I've got that new puzzle one." "Sure, I'll play," Alan agreed. Morgan made a happy sound and jumped up from the couch to scramble across to the media center. William hid his grimace at the thought of the video game. It was one of those boring search-and-find games. There was a list of objects and a picture they were supposed to be picked out of. How Morgan could love them so much was a mystery, but at least he wasn't hot to play shoot-'em-up killer games. He just wanted to play his old man game. "I'll just watch, okay?" William said, coming around the couch arm to sink back into the crushed plum comfort. He didn't care what anyone said; he'd chosen this couch and he loved this couch. "Sure, Daddy," Morgan said, not looking at him as he set up the game on the big Screen. "Me and Dad are going to have fun." "Yeah, fun," Alan said, so falsely enthusiastic that William gave him a mock-warning finger wag where Morgan couldn't see. It made Alan laugh. Watching the two people he loved the most in the world play together, William couldn't help wondering how he and Alan had managed to create such a wonderful kid. He must have added a bit too much of Alan's DNA to the mix, that was the only explanation.